Following its spectacular success with the Independence Day tribute to Mehdi Hassan and his iconic song ‘Yeh watan tumhara hai’ (2006) and to Farida Khanum with the new song ‘Hum bolain mohabat ki zabaan‘ (2007), the telecom company Mobilink and filmstar Shaan (of Khuda Key Liye fame), who is the moving force and director behind this wonderful series of tributes, have now released a third musical tribute to mark this year’s Independence Day celebrations. This year, the musical maestro being celebrated is Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and the song is his heart-moving rendition of ‘Ai watan, piyare watan.’
It is yet another iconic song. Yet another moving tribute. Yet another inspirational production that gives one goosebumps, makes ones heart beat faster, and transports you to that moment where the pettiness of the politics of the moment fades in the potential of that which could have been. In that magical moment, no matter what your political persuation might be, no matter how good or bad a singer you might be, you too want to sing out loud and join in: “Aye watan, piyare watan… aye mairey piyare watan!“
The difference this time is that the singer being honored, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, is no more with us. The video artfully mixes his old videos with new clips and an occasional cameo by a look-alike to give the compelling impression that he is still with us, singing for us. The linking motif this time is Ustad Amanat Ali Khan’s son, and singing sensation, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan (his elder brother, Asad Amanat Ali, died recently) and I suspect that the little child with his is also from the same clan. Artist Saeed Akhter is also featured prominently in the video. Readers would recall that the Mehdi Hassan video had appearances from many other luminaries, including poet Munir Niazi, who died soon afterwards (on Munir Niazi here, here and here).
As I listen to the song, another long-time favorite of mine (my colleague Owais Mughal had listed the song last year as one of his favorite expressions of Pakistaniat), I listen to it with a new sensibility. A sensibility that derives from all the heartache of the times we live in, but also from imagery of this new video; imagery that is meant to and does give the song new meaning. I am struck how music can be timeless; but also by the sophistication of the poetry that used to go into even popular music.
As I listen to it today it becomes as much an expression of dedication as a prayer. The statement of an idea, the pursuit of an ideal, the articulation of hopes. It has none of the arrogance of anthems, and all of the tenderness of a love sonnet. This verse is particularly featured in the video and speaks particularly to this point:
Mairi hasti meiN aana hai, mairi masti mein shaoor
Jaan-fizaa maira takhaiul hai, tou shireen hai sukhn